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Information in English

Introduction to researching and accessing archival records

Structure of the Archives Holdings

The archival records at Hamburg State Archive (Staatsarchiv Hamburg) mainly came from the administration of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. To maintain the order of the documents, the records are organised into collections (Bestände). These collections are showing the tasks and responsibilities of the administration in the past and in the present according to the authorities, public offices and courts where they were created.
To locate any records, you should always try to find out which authority was responsible for the time in question, i.e. where the documents were created.
The more detailed your question is when searching for records, the more specific your research can be.

Finding Aids (Findmittel)

In our online database (Archivdatenbank) you will find finding aids with over 1,000,000 archival units. In the reading room, you can search using the database or printed and handwritten catalogues and card indexes.

Visiting the Reading Room (Lesesaal)

You can use our finding aids and the archival units as well as the computers in the reading room for free. Everybody has the right to read records and other units kept by the State Archive for official, scientific, local history or journalistic purposes and legal interests. 
A free WLAN access is also available. 

Information and advice

During your visit, you can ask questions to our advisory service (Beratungsdienst) in the reading room. The advisory service provides a short introduction to doing research yourself and information on the archival holdings at the State Archive. Please see our website for consulting times.


Each archival unit has a reference code (Signatur), which gives it a unique identification within its archival collection. The unique identifier consist of a number (e.g. 23) or a combination of letters and numbers (e.g. III A 4) and the number of the archival collection.
If you want to order an archival unit you will need both numbers: the one of the collection an the one of the archival unit,. An example of a correctly completed order form can be found on our website.
If you already have the collection number and reference code, you can send your order form by e-mail to or by fax to 040 4279-16050. Please order at least two opening days before your visit.
The archival units will be kept for you in the reading room for four weeks from the order date. Registers of births, deaths and marriages remain in the reading room for only one week.
Orders for the same day are possible in the reading room up until 11.15 am and 2.15 pm. These orders will be in the reading room by 1.30 pm / 3.30 pm. Orders for the next morning can be made till 6.00 pm on the previous day.

You can also order reproductions of records from home. You will need the reference code an the reproduction order form of the ElbeWerkstätten.

Access to the archival records

You can access the records in the State Archive's reading room during opening hours.
Of most of the archival material you can take digital photo or you can order copies from the external service provider, Elbe-Werkstätten.
Please note that the records and the finding aids are in German language. Most of the documents created before the 1930ies are handwritten. Unfortunately, we cannot read or translate entire texts for you. We provide handouts and tools to assist you in dealing with unfamiliar fonts and expressions.

The Hamburg Archives Law (Hamburgisches Archivgesetz) recognizes three types of retention periods: the general retention period (30 years from creation of the archival unit), the term of protection for personal archival material (10 years from the death of the person concerned) and the term of protection for archival material subject to the confidentiality regulations (60 years from creation of the archival unit). To use records in the State Archive freely, all retention periods must have expired or been formally reduced.
In addition to these retention periods, the access to archival records may be restricted by the State Archive by applying conditions, for example to protect sensitive information or the preservation status of the record itself.

Copies and Scans

In the reading room, you can order photocopies or scans of archival records. If you already know the reference code of an archival unit, you can also place an order for reproductions of the archival material by post or e-mail. To do this, please complete the Elbe-Werkstätten GmbH reproduction order in addition to the order form and send them to the State Archive together.
You can request certified copies of registers of births, deaths and marriages, if you know the register number, registry office (Standesamt) and reference code (Bestellsignatur). Detailed information on ordering copies and use of the registry office documents can be found in German on our website: Use of registry entries in the State Archive.


archival research tutorial

Order Form for Archive and Library Materials (pdf) »(PDF, 19 bytes).
Rules Governing the Use of the State Archive - As of: 2004 »(MSWORD, 38 bytes) .
Rules Governing the Use of the State Archive - As of: 2004 - Appendix 1 Request for Use »(MSWORD, 29 bytes).
Elbe-Werkstätten Reproduction Order, as of August 2012 »(PDF, 559 bytes).
 General Terms and Conditions for Elbe-Werkstätten, as of 2010 made available »(PDF, 19 bytes).